COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When they started out, the Etbauer brothers – Robert, Billy and Dan – and their friend, Craig Latham, traveled together, sharing space in the truck and expenses to make sure everybody could afford to keep going down the road. They were the self-described “Band of Brothers.” Inseparable. Indomitable.
And on ProRodeo Hall of Fame induction day it was just the same.
With Billy Etbauer and Robert Etbauer, holders of a combined seven saddle bronc riding world championships, just starting their joint acceptance speech July 14, a tearful Billy asked brother Dan Etbauer and Latham to come stand with them on the dais in tribute to their shared journey.
“There are different things that people are going to say of what they remember (about our careers),” Billy Etbauer said. “When Robert, Danny, Craig and I were all making the National Finals Rodeo together … to be able to rodeo with all of us for as long as we did, (that was special).
“I just feel that I had a very blessed career. Between great friends and family and fans, I’ve just been blessed with it all, and an awesome career.”
The Etbauers were joined in this class of seven inductees by the late three-time world champion roughstock cowboy Frank Schneider, three-time PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year Khadafy Skoal, three-time NFR barrelman Jon Taylor, longtime rodeo administrator Hal Littrell and the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup, which has nine times been named the PRCA Rodeo Committee of the Year.
Billy Etbauer, of Edmond, Okla., is the only man in ProRodeo history to surpass $3 million in career earnings in a single event – one of only three men to reach that milestone, period – and he holds the record for most Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications by a roughstock cowboy (21) and most overall round wins at the NFR (51).
His five gold buckles came over a span of a dozen years (1992, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2004), with the last of them coming at the age of 41, making him the oldest world champion saddle bronc rider on record.
Elder brother Robert, of Goodwell, Okla., won his saddle bronc riding world championships in 1990 and 1991 and qualified for the NFR 12 times (1988-92, 1994-2000). For eight of those years the youngest Etbauer brother, Dan, qualified for the NFR with Billy and Robert; Dan qualified 10 times overall (Dan was not eligible for induction as a contestant, because the current criteria includes a minimum of one world title).
All together, the Etbauer brothers and Latham made 52-trips to the Wrangler NFR and collected more than $6 million in total prize money.
“Just like my and Billy’s life, this whole experience is too good to be true,” said Robert Etbauer. We’ve truly lived the dream and a lot of people made it possible for us and rodeo has been so good to us our whole lives. It’s an honor to be here and to think about all of the people who came before us and cut a trail for us to follow.”
Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the Dodge City Roundup, paid special tribute to the Etbauers – who won nine saddle bronc riding titles there over the years – and the other great competitors who helped lift the rodeo to the elite level, along with the committee’s long-held mission to provide the best stock, contract personnel and amenities.
Eight of Dodge City’s nine Rodeo Committee of the Year awards came in the days when there was only one category covering all 600-plus PRCA-sanctioned rodeos. Dodge City shared the award in 1985 with Phoenix and Santa Maria, Calif., and shared it again with Reno, Nev., in 1987, but claimed the award outright in 1986 and from 1988-92. Its ninth PRCA award came in 2001 when it was voted the Large Outdoor Rodeo Committee of the Year.
“When vision and determination come together, great things happen,” said Trotter, who represented Dodge City, along with original chairman Ron Long. “In 1977, when the Roundup formed with the intent of putting together a top-flight PRCA rodeo, they didn’t just meet – they collided.”
Schneider was part of a roughstock brother act in the 1930s non unlike the Etbauers in the way they dominated the cowboy sport. Elder brother Johnie won two bull riding gold buckles outright (1929-30), shared a third with Smokey Snyder (1932) and captured the 1931 all-around world championship while Frank won back-to-back bull riding world titles (1933-34) and then a bareback riding title in 1935 for good measure.
Traveling to Sydney, Australia, in 1936, Frank Schneider won an international bulldogging competition against a field of top American, Canadian and Australian competitors. He also set a world record for steer decorating at the Los Angeles Rodeo in 1932 and won numerous saddle bronc riding titles, including San Francisco – establishing himself as a true all-around hand.
“He was a one-of-a-kind dad,” said Nancy Moore, who, with her sister, Joan Etcheverry, accepted the award on behalf of their late father. “I think he wanted two boys, but instead he got two mean tough girls. He and my mother would be so proud of this moment. He was just a great dad. He never was too busy or too tired for us kids.”
Khadafy Skoal became the first Wyoming born-and-raised horse to be voted PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year in 1990 and went on to win the award twice more for Powder River Rodeo in 1995 and ’96. Starting in 1989, the blue roan gelding went to 16 consecutive NFRs and was voted Horse of the NFR in 1994, 1996 and 1999.
He also competed in 15 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeos (being named top bareback horse at the DNCFR a record five times) and 12 Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeos before being retired with his friend Skoal’s Frontier at the 2004 Wrangler NFR to the grassy fields of Riverton, Wyo., where he lives today at the age of 29.
Khadafy Skoal was present at the ceremony, the first time an animal inductee has ever been on-site.
“He’s a showman,” said Hank Franzen, who with his wife, Lori, owns Powder River Rodeo. “We went down and let him out and took some pictures. He knows what’s going on. He always loved it (the attention).”
“When we gave $2,000 for him, we thought we were crazy. But the first time we bucked him, we knew that he was going to be special. But you never know how great a horse is until their career is over.”
Taylor, 70, was selected to be the NFR barrelman in 1974, 1979 and 1983 and served as the alternate in 1980-81. He was the PRCA Clown of the Year in 1979 and developed a reputation as one of the sport’s most popular entertainers working major rodeo venues in Reno, Nev.; Fort Worth, Texas; Pendleton, Ore.; Ellensburg, Wash., and Prescott, Ariz.
He served on the PRCA Board of Directors from 1982-85 and has worked as the NFR saddle horse boss for 28 years.
“We have so many people in rodeo between the cowboys, contractors and committees, and to be selected from all of those people is what is most special,” Taylor said. “I’ve never been a world champion; I’ve been to the (Wrangler National) Finals, but this is my world championship.”
Littrell, 80, is known as “Mister Rodeo” in Colorado Springs with more than 50 years of service to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and a long record of support for the PRCA and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
A member of the Hall’s Board of Trustees from the beginning in 1979 to the present day, Littrell has been instrumental in helping secure monetary support for various projects and improvements for the Hall, most recently to update the museum’s lighting. He was selected in the Notables category.
“I never dreamed that something like this could happen,” Littrell said. “This is one of the greatest honors of my life.”
ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of former contestants and rodeo experts. More than 150 individuals are nominated each year, and selection is based on contributions to the sport of professional rodeo in any of seven categories: contestant, contract personnel, stock contractors, rodeo committees, livestock, media and notables/lifetime achievement.
Including this year’s inductees, 226 people, 27 animals and 18 rodeo committees have been selected for enshrinement in Colorado Springs since the Hall opened in 1979.
The PRCA, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the largest and oldest professional rodeo-sanctioning body in the world. The recognized leader in ProRodeo, the PRCA is committed to maintaining the highest standards. The PRCA, a membership-based organization, sanctions approximately 600 rodeos annually, and there are nearly 30 million fans in the U.S. The PRCA showcases the world’s best cowboys in premier events through the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour presented by Justin Boots, the Justin Boots Playoffs and Championships, the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour and the world-renowned Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Action from PRCA-sanctioned rodeos and its premier events appears on Great American Country (DISH Network 165, DirecTV 326) and Pursuit (DISH Network 240, DirecTV 608). Each year, PRCA-sanctioned rodeos raise more than $26 million for local and national charities. www.prorodeo.com